Sketchbook #39

When it comes to creativity, January and December are never great months for me. I spend December—what little isn’t taken up by holiday prep and recovery—in full planning mode, which is good, but it does turn into an excuse not to do the actual work. And January… despite my enthusiasm going in, it always takes me a bit of time to find my rhythms again. Add to that the one-two hit of the new year and my birthday, and I’m suddenly questioning everything.

That’s actually why I’m working on this post right now, when I’d already blocked out this time for writing fiction. I need to step back and take an objective look at some of this stuff, and talking it out here always seems to help me clarify my thoughts. (If you’re not here for my creative-process rambling, consider that your warning. I won’t feel bad if you skip this post.)

Ok, so. First of all, where am I on my various creative projects?

I’ll start with the good. I’m taking pictures again! It’s not much—it’s January, there’s no worse time to try to take pictures in this part of the world, everything’s cold and grey and brown—but it’s something, and if you’ve been listening to me complain over the past four or five months, any progress is good. And, after the initial anxiety, it feels really good to be taking (and sharing!) photos again. (More on that in my first roundup of the project.)

Now. Writing.

I’m still working on the first draft of Violet Lane. Theoretically. I have been writing most days, and, after a certain amount of waffling while I tidied up some of the mess I’d left during NaNoWriMo and tried to remember what the hell I was trying to do with this story before I set it aside for the holidays, I have been producing new words. They’re not bad.

But wow there are a lot of words, and not much plot to justify them.

This sequence has been giving me trouble for close to a month of actual writing days, and it’s still nowhere near finished. If it was just the time spent writing, that’d be one thing—it’s an important, complex set of scenes, with a lot of moving parts, and sometimes those scenes are just difficult to write. They’re going to take a while, and I always have to remind myself that, just because I’ve been living in this part of the story for a week or two and it feels like it’s gone on forever, if I do it right, it’s not going to drag for the reader.

But in this case… the sequence really is running too long. Several thousand words too long. My first drafts usually run too short, so this is kind of freaking me out—which is making it harder to sit down and write every day.

In slightly better news, I’ve started work on the next round of revisions on The Black Sun.

That’s… also moving slowly. Mostly because this stage of the revision process is brand new to me, and kind of overwhelming. It’s not a full-on rewrite, or even fine-tuning… this time, I’m making a few big structural changes (clarifying some backstory and expanding a subplot), and trying to figure out how to do that without breaking the whole story. (And then going back and fine-tuning everything again to fix the things that do break.) It’s necessary work, and I know it’s going to make the story so much better, but… just figuring out where to start was almost impossible.

I have started, though. And I’m happy with it so far.

Meanwhile, I decided—for some reason—that this would be a good time to experiment with a different writing setup. I’ve been giving Scrivener a try. (Just the desktop version for now. Once I make up my mind on that, I’ll look at trying the mobile version.) The learning curve has been… very steep.

I’m used to a much more minimal setup; usually, until I reach a point where I’m going to be sharing a manuscript with readers, I do everything in plain text, using Markdown. (It keeps the file sizes small and future-proof, and Markdown means all the formatting is instinctive and doesn’t slow me down when I’m writing.) Scrivener is none of those things. I love the way it organizes files, and that I can keep all my references and notes in one place. But learning how to use it has definitely slowed my progress this month. (And I’m not sure how I feel about the ‘distraction free’ mode. It… actually feels more distracting to me? I don’t know why.)

I’m still trying to decide what I think about the whole thing.

Anyway, yeah: it’s been a slow month, and the next couple of weeks are going to be even worse. But I’m trying to get myself organized to do some work done, despite the major schedule disruptions I’ve got coming up over the next week and a half. After that, I really hope that things will even out, and I can finally start moving forward again.

My goal is to have both of my current projects—the first draft of Violet Lane and the (hopefully final?) revision of The Black Sun—done by the end of March. Right now, that feels kind of impossible, but… I can do it.

… I’ve also set myself a goal of finding a new creative hobby this year. That’s still a work in progress. I haven’t had a chance to do any sewing yet (I do have plans—and materials—in place for my first project. Or second, since I’ve got one last set of curtains to hem, and I want to do that next week, if I can). I’ve been looking at lettering tutorials and playing with that a bit, but again, this month has been one long challenge, and I haven’t really been able to sit down and seriously start experimenting.

So! That’s where I am going into February, and gives me a good idea of where I want to go: keep moving forward with the photography project (and hopefully get back to work on the big project that stalled last year), find my rhythm in both Violet Lane and The Black Sun again. (And maybe make up my mind about Scrivener.) Try to carve out the time to really explore those hobbies I’ve been thinking about.

I know that the rest of this week and all of next are going to be a bust. And I can live with that, as long as I can be ready to get back to work—really back to work—the week after.